When medics rushed to help people who were pepper sprayed or injured, the police targeted us. They would rush forward to pepper spray the medics or attempt to arrest them. Or they would attack people who were already incapacitated and unable to move on their own.
In the aftermath of the protests against nationalists masquerading under the guise of “Straight Pride,” I wanted to wait to gather my thoughts and recover since it was less than 12 hours ago as I write this that I was standing outside awaiting the release of a friend from jail. But unfortunately I see people already trying to spin the events that occurred in the streets, sidewalks, and parks of Boston.
Before getting into anything else, it is important to know why “Straight Pride” was a complete sham.
First and foremost, “Straight Pride” was everything we said it was going to be. For months, many of us tried to highlight the fact that this event was going to have nothing to do with heterosexuality. For months, we pointed out every way in which this event was going to be a poorly concealed hate rally. There was no platform about straight and cisgender oppression. There was nothing related to advancing society to be a more equitable and equal place for those that reside within our borders or for those living in other countries. In the end, it was a bunch of nationalist and homophobic bullshit (the second speaker ranted about the wrongness of LGBTQ+ people existing) all wrapped up in a bunch of American flags.
As a reminder, LGBTQ+ Pride and the related Pride parades/protests are sourced back to the systemic oppression of Queer and Trans people. It is sourced to police raiding our bars, extorting our businesses, and violently policing our sexuality. It was sourced in the state controlling whose ears we whispered our words of intimacy into, whose hands we held, whose lips we kissed, and whose bodies we shared space with. Pride arose from the bitterness of oppression and the joy of liberation felt at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, Stonewall, and many other places.
The police response to the counter protest was aggressive from the beginning.
Counter protesters arrived at the nearby park and congregated on the sidewalk just outside of it. In the streets were miles of pedestrian barricades that lined the parade route.
Before the protest even started, the police snatched someone from the sidewalk and detained them. This person was searched and then released back into the crowd a couple minutes later. The police entered the crowd again after an individual spoke on their megaphone, detaining that individual for a search, as well as to take possession of the megaphone. That person was also released back into the crowd. It was clear from the onset that the police were going to be hostile and were looking for any and all excuses to engage in aggressive actions. They didn’t even need a reason.
A short moment after seizing the megaphone, as the crowd was singing and chanting, the police entered the crowd again and pulled the same person they searched earlier from the sidewalk and arrested them without warning or reason. Again, the parade hadn’t even started yet and people were being arrested for committing the crime of standing in the place they were told they could be standing. To quote someone that was arrested later, “I was arrested for *checks notes* complying with orders.”
The situation escalated as the police continually opened the barricades to rush into the crowd and randomly arrest people as well as indiscriminately use pepper spray against anyone and everyone in the area. This would continue along the entirety of the barricaded parade route. At one point, the police rushed someone, searched them while continuing to shove them with a baton (while on the ground), and then just randomly got up, leaving the individual in the street.
When medics rushed to help people who were pepper sprayed or injured, the police targeted us. They would rush forward to pepper spray the medics or attempt to arrest them. Or they would attack people who were already incapacitated and unable to move on their own. At one point the police managed to seize a medic bag while attempting to nab a street medic. They placed the bag in the middle of the barricaded road and surrounded it with officers and a police dog, as if it was a threat.
As the rally drew to a close, the police lined up on motorcycles and forced their way through the crowd. This was followed by lines of bike police that began striking protesters with their bicycles while mindlessly chanting “get back.” This effort was supported by more officers indiscriminately using pepper spray. If someone fell, the officers would pummel them with their bikes tires or batons and shower them with pepper spray along with anybody trying to come to their aid. The police pepper sprayed a series of journalists, a sergeant struck one of them with a baton, and I watched another journalist get blindside tackled into the ground as he was walking away from the police line and up the sidewalk.
At no point was there an audible command to disperse or any audible direction as to anywhere people could go to continue their lawful right to protest, where they wouldn’t be at risk of being attacked by the police.
The end result was that over 30 people were arrested and dozens of people were exposed to pepper spray. Several people suffered various injuries from blunt force trauma and falls at the hands of Boston Police Officers. These numbers included street medics and journalists.
The claim that the police response was appropriate is false. The claim that the violence was because of counter protesters or “Antifa” is false. The truth is that this was a police riot in defense of a group of homophobic nationalists and fascists. If this was any other country in the world…
A final thought:
Our Black, PoC, Jewish, Queer, Trans, and siblings with disabilities showed up and put themselves in harms way. Vulnerable people put their bodies on the line, some of them paying a price for it.
We don’t need allies that continue to sit on the sidelines. We need accomplices that join us in the work.